Service and the Art of Grilling


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Holidays are excellent times to sharpen your grilling skills. I am an avid steak griller. When entertaining guests, it is important to begin the grilling process by gathering a bit of steak intelligence. From rare to well done, guests differ in their steak partiality. Some like their steaks marinated or highly seasoned. Some want all the fat removed. Some prefer their steak get to rest after cooking and before serving.

Steak presentation can be enhanced with searing the steak on a super-hot grill before the methodical cooking process begins. I’m not a grill sissy who makes cooking decisions solely with a stop watch. I prefer the art of reading the steak, carefully manipulating the grill temperature, and occasionally using a meat thermometer. Forks are not allowed around a grill; only tongs to turn the steak without punching holes in it.

Customers like their service in as varied a ways as people like their steaks. Some customers want raw service—no frills, minimal effort, and with no extra coddling (like customers of Amazon). Some prefer a highly tailored experience with the rich interpersonal connection of a smoker filled with mesquite (like customers of Nordstrom or Ritz-Carlton Hotels). Some care more about the presentation than any other aspect of their service experience (like customers of Trader Joe’s or Stew Leonard’s Dairy). And, others want the basics done well and with an emphasis on cost-saving (like customers of Southwest Airlines or Costco).

Like steak grilling, it is important to first learn what customers prefer. Assuming all customers are alike is a lot like assuming all Republicans oppose pro-choice or all millennials would rather text than talk. Granted, segments have similarities. But, as Mark Twain wisely said, “All generalizations are false, including this one!” If you are serving hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers, look for ways your customers can help you “cook” their service just like they want it.

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group ( and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.


  1. Hi Chip,
    This is a great perspective … always love food analogies. Just to build on it a bit, I think that customers are different under different circumstances. I am am a business traveler that patronizes the Ritz and expects the ‘Ritzy’ service while there, yet also loves to shop at a Costco for the eco-friendly, animal friendly, high quality produce at reasonable costs. So customers are different under different circumstances. It is important for a company to define their brand value and reflect that in the customer experience.

  2. You are so right, Amy. Organizations that pursue a “one size fits all” approach are doomed to failure! Customers are far more complex than many service-providing organizations realize. Thanks for your comment! Chip


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